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Knebworth House

Knebworth House is an English country house in the parish of Knebworth in Hertfordshire. It is a Grade II* listed building. Its gardens are also listed Grade II* on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. In its surrounding park is the medieval St. Mary's Church and the Lytton family mausoleum.

The grounds are home to the Knebworth Festival, a recurring open-air rock and pop concert held since 1974.

History and description

The home of the Lytton family since 1490, when Thomas Bourchier sold the reversion of the manor to Sir Robert Lytton, Knebworth House was originally a red-brick Late Gothic manor house, built round a central court as an open square. In 1813-16 the house was reduced to its west wing, which was remodelled in a Tudor Gothic style by John Biagio Rebecca for Mrs Bulwer-Lytton, and then was transformed in 1843-45 by Henry Edward Kendall Jr. into the present Tudor Gothic structure.

Knebworth's most famous resident was Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), the Victorian author, dramatist and statesman, who embellished the gardens in a formal Italianate fashion. The 1st Baron's great-grandson Neville (1879-1951) married Judith Blunt, a well known horse breeder who inherited Crabbet Arabian Stud in 1917 and devoted her life to it. In 1913-1914 the house was leased for £3,000 per year by Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia and his morganatic wife Natalia Brasova.

Much of the interior of Knebworth House was redesigned by Sir Edwin Lutyens, who married Lady Emily Bulwer-Lytton (1874-1964) - he simplified the main parterre. Lady Emily was the daughter of The 1st Earl of Lytton, who served as Viceroy of India between 1876 and 1880. A herb garden, with an interlaced quincunx design, was drawn by Gertrude Jekyll in 1907, although not planted until 1982.

The house today

See also: Knebworth Festival
Mausoleum at Knebworth House Herts - geograph.org.uk - 476189
Lytton Mausoleum

As of 2019, its residents are Henry Lytton-Cobbold and his family. He had a career in the film industry, living for some years in Los Angeles, and so the house and gardens are frequently used for filming.

They are also open to the public. The grounds include tourist attractions such as an adventure playground and dinosaur park and host various events including classic car rallies. Since 1974, the Knebworth Festival has featured the likes of Robbie Williams, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Queen, Paul McCartney, Genesis, Mike Oldfield, The Beach Boys, Deep Purple, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Dire Straits, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Iron Maiden and Oasis.

In 2020 the house was also used for the British Girlband Little Mix who performed a virtual concert for Meerkat Music Presents: Little Mix Uncancelled (2020 Virtual Concert)

Media

Local radio station BOB FM broadcasts from the old pump house, which provided water for the house.

Numerous films and television series have been shot at Knebworth, including:

  • Anastasia (1956) - palace of the Empress
  • Danger Man - "The Sanctuary" (1959)
  • The Champions - "The Night People" (1967)
  • The Avengers - "Invasion of the Earthmen" (1967/68)
  • Decline and Fall... of a Birdwatcher (1968)
  • Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) - "Somebody Just Walked Over My Grave" (1969)
  • Carry On Henry - Exterior shots (1970)
  • The Persuaders! - opening credits (1970/71)
  • The Adventurer - "Action!" (1972)
  • Horror Hospital (1973)
  • Keep It Up Downstairs (1976) - filmed entirely on location as the fictitious 'Cockshute Towers'
  • The Big Sleep (1978) - General Sternwood's country mansion
  • The Great Muppet Caper (1981) - exterior of the Mallory Gallery
  • Sir Henry at Rawlinson End (1980) - interior and exterior
  • The Shooting Party (1985) - filmed entirely on location
  • Haunted Honeymoon (1986) - exterior of the home
  • Porterhouse Blue (1987) - interior and exterior of the home of Sir Cathcart D'Eath
  • The Lair of the White Worm (1988) - exterior of the D'Ampton mansion
  • Batman (1989) - exterior scenes of Bruce Wayne's manor
  • A Bit of Fry & Laurie - Season Four, Episode 6 ("The Duke of Northhampton") (1995) - sketch
  • The Canterville Ghost (1996)
  • Sacred Flesh (1999) - exterior scenes of the convent
  • Jane Eyre (1997) - Thornfield Hall
  • Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London (2004) - some scenes in and around the grounds
  • Foyle's War Series 3 Episode 2 ("Enemy Fire") (2004) - as the fictional Digby Manor
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) - Yule Ball staircase scene
  • St Trinian's 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold (2009) - used as the St. Trinian's all girl school
  • Jonathan Creek - provided the location of Metropolis (2008 Christmas Special)
  • The King's Speech (2010) - Balmoral Party and other scenes
  • Agatha Christie's Marple (2010) - significant interior and exterior scenes, including in Season 1, Episode 3, "4.50 from Paddington," with Knebworth House and estate standing in for the fictional Rutherford Hall
  • The Hour (2011) - Lord Elms residence
  • The Scapegoat (2012) - significant interior and exterior scenes
  • Midsomer Murders Series 15 Episode 1 ("The Dark Rider") - significant exterior scenes
  • Woman Like Me (2018 music video) - Little Mix
  • Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020) - exterior shots of Alexander Lemtov's British house
  • Meerkat Music Presents: Little Mix Uncancelled (2020 Virtual Concert)
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